Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Gilead. An O.T. tribe or family related to the tribe of Manasseh. Also an area east of the Jordan River, around the Jabbok River. Gen. 31:21; Num. 26:30; Judg. 5:17; 11:1; 2 Kings 10:32-33.

The balm of Gilead was a medicine made from the gum of an evergreen tree. Gen 37:25; Jer. 8:22.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Gilead, a region in Transjordan (modern Jordan) from the Arnon to the Yarmuk rivers, between Bashan and Moab. Its name, which in Hebrew means ‘rugged,’ describes it well: it is mountainous, and in antiquity was densely forested (see Jer. 22:6). The major trade route in Transjordan, the King’s Highway, which went from the Gulf of Aqaba to Damascus, passed through Gilead, and the inhabitants of the region thus controlled this important thoroughfare. Southern Gilead (from the Arnon to the Jabbok) was under the control of Sihon, the king of the Amorites in the Mosaic period (thirteenth century b.c.). It was assigned to the Israelite tribes of Reuben and Gad in the division of the land, and later corresponded approximately to the kingdoms of the Ammonites, with their capital at Rabbath-ammon (modern Amman), and Moab. This area was especially well suited for herding (Num. 32:1; Song of Sol. 6:5). Northern Gilead (from the Jabbok to the Yarmuk) was assigned to Manasseh, and remained under Israelite control until the Assyrian conquest (721 b.c.), although both the Ammonites to the south and the Aramaeans to the north occupied it at times (see Judg. 10:8; 1 Kings 22:3; Amos 1:3). In the Persian period (ca. 538-333 b.c.) Gilead was a separate province, and in the Roman period Gilead was subdivided into the districts of Perea and the area controlled by the Decapolis. Major cities in Gilead include Heshbon and Rabbath-ammon (later Philadelphia) in the south, and Pella, Gerasa, Gadara, Abila, Jabesh-gilead, and Ramoth-gilead in the north. The exact composition of the proverbial ‘balm of Gilead’ (Jer. 8:22; cf. Gen. 37:25) has not been definitely established.

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